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California is a community property state: Here's what it means

You might recall the moment you made your final decision to file for divorce in California. Your main concerns included a desire to keep your children's well-being in mind when negotiating a settlement and to make sure you would receive all that you're entitled to in property division proceedings. This state is not among a majority regarding that particular topic.

Most states across the country operate under equitable property division guidelines. However, California and eight other states use community property rules. The more you learn about these regulations ahead of time, the better you will likely be able to protect your financial interests.

Do you possess separate ownership?

Perhaps, you inherited money before you were married. Maybe you even purchased a home. In such cases, these assets or property would not be subject to marital property division when you divorce. You would be the sole owner of the property, so your spouse could not lay claim to a portion of those assets.

Did you sign a prenuptial agreement before your marriage? If so, you may have assigned certain assets or liabilities to one person only. For instance, maybe your ex had taken out a college loan and still owed on it. You did not want to hold financial accountability for the debt if you were ever to divorce, so you incorporated it as a separate liability in your prenuptial contract.

Equitable versus community property division

The main difference between California law and states that operate under equitable property rules is that judges dividing marital assets under community rules typically split property 50/50 between spouses. This division refers to the value of marital property. You can't split a house or car in half, so the court places a value on the property and assigns a portion to each spouse.

Hidden assets are a potential problem

Especially in a community property state, you may be at risk for a hidden asset problem. Your spouse might try to stash cash or understate the value of certain assets in an effort to walk away with more than he or she is entitled to gain. This type of behavior is not only mean-spirited, it is illegal.

This is yet another reason to seek clarification of all property division laws before heading to court. If you think your ex is up to no good regarding full asset and liability disclosure, you can ask the court to intervene to investigate the matter. It's helpful to discuss such issues with someone well-versed in divorce laws so that you can make well-informed decisions and protect your rights and financial interests should the issue wind up in court.

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Law Office of Edward S. Matisoff
3625 E. Thousand Oaks Boulevard
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Westlake Village, CA 91362

Phone: 805-666-0980
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